Idaho native Ryan Hatfield recently published “Idaho’s Greatest Whitetails,” which chronicles the game, the hunters and the hunts involving the best whitetail bucks ever taken in the state.
The book shares the story behind every buck and uncovers the mystery behind Idaho’s state record buck. The monster whitetail was taken in 1955 by an unknown hunter until Hatfield tracked down the hunter’s identity.
“Idaho’s Greatest Whitetails” is the third in Hatfield’s book series, which also includes “Idaho’s Greatest Mule Deer” and “Idaho’s Greatest Elk.” They are available online at www.idahobiggame.com.
Hatfield is editor of Eastman’s Hunting Journal and Eastman’s Bowhunting Journal and a former assistant director of big game records for Boone and Crockett Club.
He took a break from editing to talk about his new book, and the story behind the stories, and the state of Idaho’s big game.
Q: What made you decide to do the Idaho whitetail book?
A: After I wrote my first book, “Idaho’s Greatest Mule Deer,” hunters asked me many times over about the prospects of writing similar books on elk, whitetails, etc.
The books go a long way toward my goal of having Idaho’s hunting history being the best-documented hunting history anywhere in the world, and when the series is complete, it will be.
Q: What provided the tip to find the origin of Idaho’s state record whitetail?
A: That was the most exciting thing that happened during the writing of the book – being able to finally put Herman Lunders’ name on the state record, which for over 50 years had been listed as a very lonely “unknown.” It might seem like a minor detail, but for hunters, it’s a very important piece of historical information.
Q: What was your biggest surprise in researching the book?
A: That most of the biggest whitetails in Idaho were taken only about 20 years ago. Much of Idaho’s best hunting was in the 1950s and 1960s, but for whitetails, the best trophies taken were in the 1980s and 1990s.
Q: Why is Idaho so overlooked as a place for trophy whitetails?
A: Idaho will never compete with the Midwest when it comes to trophy whitetails, but when it comes to do-it-yourself, public-land whitetail hunting, Idaho is about as good as it gets.
Q: You’ve tracked whitetail trophies from the 1920s to present, and most have come from the 80s to the present. What’s your prediction for the next decade for chances of taking a trophy whitetail?
A: Whitetails have had a rough go over the past five years. A couple of outbreaks of EHD (a potentially deadly gnat-borne illness) and two consecutive devastating winters in the Panhandle a couple of years ago have really put the hurt on them.
If anything can bounce back, it will be those wily whitetails, but it might take a couple of cooperative years.
Q: After doing all three books, what’s your take on the current status of Idaho as a big-game state?
A: I commend Idaho Fish and Game for continuing to provide significant hunter opportunity. It’s absolutely crucial for the continuation of our hunting heritage and for ensuring healthy wildlife populations.
But I think more needs to be done to manipulate hunter success so that we can start realizing some of Idaho’s amazing potential for trophy-class animals.
Major wolf predation is also hurting the situation. Wolves are great animals, but they are way out of control and over objectives and agreements.
With this situation, no one wins.